Tuesday 22 October 2019

Taoiseach hunts for 'leak' at centre of Maria Bailey swing row

Fine Gael probe hunts for leak at centre of Bailey compensation case row

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Maria Bailey TD at the Gibson for the All Ireland Winners Banquet in 2017
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Maria Bailey TD at the Gibson for the All Ireland Winners Banquet in 2017
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is attempting to find out how information about Maria Bailey’s compensation claim made its way into the public domain.

An internal Fine Gael probe is looking for the source who Ms Bailey has claimed set out to cause “maximum damage”. The Dún Laoghaire TD dropped her lawsuit over a fall from a swing after the Irish Independent revealed she had run a 10km race within three weeks of the incident.

Mr Varadkar and a string of senior ministers have said the controversy in the final days of the local election campaign hurt the party at the polls. He hired senior counsel David Kennedy “to establish all the facts” around the case before deciding whether Ms Bailey should be sanctioned by the party.

His report was expected to be finalised last week but sources say it could be another fortnight before it is delivered to the Taoiseach. It has now emerged that as part of his work Mr Kennedy is trying to find out whether somebody within Fine Gael was involved in leaking the story.

In correspondence, he requested to know how this newspaper became aware of the case and obtained court documents.

"I wonder can you tell me how you heard about the case, and obtained a copy of the pleadings?" Mr Kennedy wrote.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

The Irish Independent first reported on May 20 that a case recorded as "Maria Bailey Ryan v Holtend Limited trading as The Dean Hotel" was listed for mention in the Circuit Court County Registrar that day.

Compensation awards in this court can be as high as €60,000.

It was established that the first-time TD's claim was based on an incident which occurred while on a night out with friends in July 2015. Ms Bailey fell backwards out of an indoor swing. She was holding a bottle of beer and reaching for a friend's drink at the time.

In the circuit court proceedings, she has accused the hotel of negligence, saying the swing was "unsupervised" and there were no signs telling patrons how to safely use it.

This newspaper will not be co-operating with Fine Gael's attempt to expose potential sources linked to the story.

During her now infamous radio interview with RTÉ's Sean O'Rourke a week after the story first broke, Ms Bailey suggested that she was the target of political dirty tricks.

"This was methodical. This was well orchestrated, this was pre-planned to cause maximum damage. And I am the collateral damage in the end term of that," she said.

However, Ms Bailey refused to disclose who she believed was behind the supposed leak or why.

"I'm not going to cast aspersions on air because that's not the way I play, I will deal with that in my own way," she said.

When asked for a comment on why Fine Gael is now searching for a possible leaker, a party spokesperson referred to a statement issued on May 29.

It noted that Ms Bailey had agreed to participate fully with the internal review and that her party "will not be making any further comment at this time".

The investigation is also understood to be looking at what role, if any, Culture Minister Josepha Madigan played in the lawsuit.

Ms Bailey was represented by her brother's law firm, where the minister worked at the time of the incident.

During her radio interview, Ms Bailey claimed that she "put every faith in that legal system. And I was told I had a clear cut case".

Ms Madigan has refused to say whether she provided any advice to her colleague prior to leaving the law firm in June 2017.

Last weekend, Mr Varadkar said the controversy surrounding the swing case was "not a plus" for the party during the recent election campaigns.

"We are going to make it a requirement now for all candidates to make us aware of previous convictions or court cases they may be getting involved in," he said.

"We can't just treat these things as private matters anymore because they do have an impact on the rest of the party."

Ms Bailey has since returned to normal duties in Leinster House, including her role as chairperson of the Oireachtas Housing Committee. It is understood Mr Kennedy's report will be supplied to her for comment before being forwarded to the Taoiseach. Fine Gael has not committed to making the findings public.

Irish Independent

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